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Let’s Talk About Bell Let’s Talk

“Bell Let’s Talk” is a corporate mental health initiative run by a monolithic telecom empire called Bell, also known as Bell Canada. This initiative began in 2011, with the last business day in January designated as “Bell Let’s Talk Day” each year. Its advertised focus is raising awareness of mental health issues and combating stigma. There is also a charitable component. Bell raises money for certain types of mental health organizations (more on this later). I will discuss this initiative from the perspective of a person with a mental illness. I have personally suffered from stigma. I’ve also been disappointed when similar initiatives didn’t help me. I could potentially benefit from Bell Let’s Talk, but I’ve been burned in the past by empty promises of help.

First I should describe exactly what Bell Let’s Talk is. Most people would say it’s a charity that raises awareness about mental health issues. I worked in the corporate world for many years. My family is full of senior marketing vice presidents for major corporations. I know exactly why corporations like Bell initiate this type of program. The term for it is “Cause Related Marketing” or CRM.

Cause Related Marketing: Corporations Pretending To Care

Cause related marketing is exactly what it says – pure marketing, tied to a cause. It’s a potentially sleazy pursuit that’s abused by corporations. CRM fools millions of customers, banking on their generosity and altruism. The main purpose of CRM is not to help others, but to help the corporation’s bottom line. It serves two purposes. The first is raising a company’s profile with the public, particularly a company which the public views negatively. The second purpose is easy to guess – to increase profits with the promise that the customer is helping a good cause. But they can only “help” when they buy the company’s product.

Here’s how CRM works. A corporation chooses a cause, in this case mental illness. They may set up a charity or promise to donate to an existing cause. The company may release a series of TV or other commercials about their initiative. Most of the time, companies will only choose to help certain groups within a cause. They choose those groups based on how much a group “tugs on the public’s heart strings”. For example, a company may choose to help animal rescues. But they’ll only help rescues that find homes for dogs. This is because marketing research tells them that the public responds with more empathy towards puppies than kittens. As far as the “benevolent” company is concerned, cats and kittens who need homes don’t generate enough sales.

In many cases a company may pretend to adopt a cause but do nothing other than use it for marketing purposes. The breast cancer research/awareness scam is the most glaring and widespread of these frauds. Each year, corporations line up to print pink ribbon symbols on their product labels or sell goods in pink packaging or decorate their business with pink streamers. Pro sports teams all don pink jerseys, which are of course sold to eager fans bamboozled into thinking that the profits will go to breast cancer research. The term for this scam is “pinkwashing”. Not a dime is raised for breast cancer research (or “awareness”) by these hucksters, but customers flock to buy these pinkwashed products thinking they’re helping breast cancer patients when all they are doing is helping corporate profit margins.

How Bell uses CRM for “Bell Let’s Talk”

Any donations to the cause are closely tied to customer spending, or in Bell’s case with “Let’s Talk”, text messages on their designated “Let’s Talk Day”, because among other things they’re one of Canada’s top three cell phone service providers. This means the customer has to buy (by sending texts) to donate, or they can use Bell’s Facebook frame, or they can post on the repressive mainstream censorship/social media outlets. Doing all of these things racks up the text and data charges on the customer’s phone, and Bell donates a portion of the take to their Let’s Talk cause. This hearkens back to the primary goal of Cause Related Marketing – profits for the corporation. Customers are never told how they can donate directly to any real charity, so that 100% of their money can go to Bell’s marketing campaign.

Why Bell Needs To Boost Their Image With CRM

In Bell’s case, they definitely need to raise their profile with the public, as they have a poor reputation with most people. It all stems from the fact that during most of the 20th century the Canadian government handed Bell the sole monopoly on all landline phone service in Canada. This monopoly only ended during the 1980’s, at the same time cellular phones came into use. During Bell’s monopoly, they were universally loathed thanks to their bottomless greed and deceptive, arrogant attitude towards their customers. Many people still remember those days.

Even now, the government tampers with Canada’s telecom and entertainment industries, giving Bell and two other huge corporations a triopoly over all landline, cellular, internet, news and TV industries. Not only do they own the services, they’ve even taken over Canada’s entertainment industry, producing most of the Canadian made television shows and sporting event shows. They also wield their power to shut out any and all competition, with the government’s collusion of course.

Unfortunate customers are now forced to choose between these three greedy, arrogant corporations for their phone, TV and internet service. Thanks to price fixing between the three corporations, Canadians pay more than any other developed nation for these services, and we get less, because companies that enjoy a government mandated triopoly have no incentive to spend their profits on upgrading technology.

Another issue, which occurred two years after Bell’s Let’s Talk program began, was that Bell was found to be secretly and illegally spying on its customers, invading their privacy and selling their information or using it to create targeted ads. They were spying on cellular, TV and Internet customers. There was a huge scandal and even the government’s Privacy Commissioner investigated Bell’s shady practices. Bell in its typical arrogance tried to claim that its customers wanted to be spied on! Clearly this did nothing to improve the public’s perception of Bell as good corporate citizen.

How “Bell Let’s Talk” Works

So now we know why Bell created its Let’s Talk program, but how does it really work? It’s a big, multifaceted initiative with many pros and cons. The program is based on what Bell calls “Four Pillars“. Each icon clicks through to a page about a “pillar”.

Four Pillars of Bell's Let's Talk program

      1. Anti-Stigma.

        Bell presents a page with about 50 people’s photos. Every one apparently contains that person’s story of mental illness. Bell also includes few minor Canadian celebrities (“ambassadors” in Bell’s parlance). But when I read the stories I found several which made no mention whatsoever of mental illness. One “story” was nothing but the career path of a Montreal musician. There were a couple of stories which talked about addiction, not mental illness. Addiction is a form of mental illness, but other than in the stories there is no mention of it anywhere else on the Let’s Talk site. I guess there’s just a bit too much stigma attached to addiction for Bell to want to “talk” about it. Addiction doesn’t sell. Padding the number of stories apparently does. There is also a “toolkit” with “suggested conversations” that people can download, to have with the mentally ill. I’m not sure that scripted conversations are very helpful, and if the mentally ill person feels like they’re hearing a script it can make matters a lot worse. But, I do understand that many people don’t know what to say to a mentally ill person.

      2. Care & Access.

        Bell states that they “support” (doesn’t necessarily mean “give money” in CRM-speak) “various” organizations such as hospitals, universities etc. That’s all. Lack of access to health care is a major problem for the mentally ill in Canada, it’s a product of discrimination wherein governments refuse to spend money on treating crazy people, and doctors refuse to treat us, even for physical ailments. Later I’ll talk more about whom Bell does and does not support, and why.

      3. Research.

        Bell says they are “investing in best-in-class research programs”. However, when I checked their criteria to apply for their grants, I found ““Medical equipment” and “research projects”” listed under “Exclusions”. In other words – a baldfaced lie.

      4. Workplace health.

        All Bell does is state that they’re following a “voluntary” standard in how they treat their employees who have a mental illness. There is no mention of any action to raise awareness with other corporations. This is unfortunate, because many including myself are victimized by employers, co-workers and superiors when we experience mental illness symptoms. We end up losing our jobs, benefits, pensions. I haven’t worked since 2010. Before my doctor instructed me to stop working I put up with three years of bullying, unfair treatment and harassment from a co-worker and a supervisor. The company ignored my complaints. This is an area of mental health awareness which is long overdue for laws to protect people with mental illness in the workplace.

Bell also provides a couple of pages with useful information such as “where to get help” which provides a surprising range of links, phone numbers and other contacts for the mentally ill.

Who Gets The Help – And The Money?

But by far the most important part of the Bell Let’s Talk initiative, at least for me as a person supposedly targeted by this program, is the page describing where all the help and money go. Bell has a Community Fund which they say offers “grants in the range of $5,000 to $25,000 to projects that improve access to mental health care, supports and services for people in Canada.” This is where their CRM agenda rears its ugly head. Remember what I wrote about only helping certain groups, groups which their marketing research says resonate the most with their customers, and the rest can pound sand? Here are Bell Let’s Talk’s three cherry-picked groups:

  1.  Let's talk about Bells Chosen

This is a disgrace. I’m not saying that these groups don’t need help. However, they all get plenty of funding as it is, especially the Indigenous groups. Every rehab and mental health clinic is staffed with Indigenous social workers and full of Indigenous art. Their programs are all geared towards Indigenous people, even if none of the patients is Indigenous. Remember, we have supposedly public health care. The Indigenous and the children and youth already get generous funding under existing programs. Military families get funding both from public health care and veteran’s affairs. Bell chose these three groups because their marketing research indicates that cutesy little kidz, Indigenous peoples and veterans tug on the public heart strings the hardest. Certainly it has zero to do with who needs the help the most.

In 2020, Bell has now resorted to blatant racism to pander to race rioters and neocommunists. To that end, they have added what they call a “diversity fund” to help essentially everyone who isn’t White. Besides practicing racial discrimination against Whites, this new “fund” is intended to cash in on the recent surge of “acceptable” anti-White racism amongst violent negroids and Marxist terror groups. Again, this move has nothing whatsoever to do with helping the mentally ill.

Who Gets Ignored By Bell Let’s Talk

Adults – the majority of people who suffer from mental illness.

Let me put it to you this way. I have Bipolar Disorder, PTSD and a brain injury. Every month I’m supposed to receive treatment from a psychiatrist, to manage my medications and order regular blood work to test my lithium levels (lithium is a deadly poison if it builds up in the blood). I take a medication that causes cataracts and blindness, so I should have yearly eye tests. “Public” health care doesn’t fund eye tests. I should receive counselling to manage my mental health symptoms. I fall into periods of mania or severe self neglect and self isolation. Talk therapy for the mentally ill isn’t covered by “public” health care any more than eye tests are. These are the standard treatments for my conditions.

What treatments do I receive? I haven’t seen a psychiatrist in five, count’em, five years. The provincial government cut the funding for all mental health care on two weeks’ notice in my area of Toronto. I haven’t had blood work. Haven’t had my eyes checked. Used to have a weekly talk therapy group, the government cut that 4 years ago. All I get is a visit with a family doctor every three months to renew my prescriptions – which haven’t been changed since I last saw a psychiatrist. My situation is shared by millions of mentally ill adults across Canada, but “Bell Let’s Talk” has nothing to say about this lack of access to care.

The Homeless – the people who are most afflicted by mental illness.

Homeless people don’t get any care at all. Because they have nowhere to live, they don’t qualify for any publicly funded health care. It’s a vicious circle. Their untreated mental illness and addiction are the cause of their homelessness. Their homelessness is the reason they can’t access treatment. More than half of people forced to freeze on the streets also suffer from untreated mental illnesses and addictions. The sufferer uses substances to cope with mental illness symptoms and a horrible life. But the Bell Let’s Talk website doesn’t even contain the word “homeless” – not even once. They help those who receive plenty of care and funding, while ignoring those who receive no help, or inadequate help. Still think Bell’s Let’s Talk scam is about helping the mentally ill?

Not only do homeless people suffer from stigma due to their illness, they suffer doubly due to their homelessness. Most of them die horrific deaths by their own hand or by accidents. Living on the street is highly dangerous. Homeless people are routinely beaten, robbed and raped – even the men. Toronto’s liberal mayor John Tory places a higher priority on housing illegal border jumping freeloaders than the homeless. Just in time for winter, Tory kicked the homeless out of the Toronto shelters in favour of illegal migrants. But the homeless don’t tug the public’s heart strings or make any money for Bell, or for John Tory for that matter. Bell Let’s Talk refuses to “talk” about the homeless because helping them doesn’t help Bell’s profits.

Homeless Man
A homeless man lies on a subway grate for warmth in downtown Toronto. “Let’s Talk” about helping him? Bell would rather not.

Bell Let’s Talk: The Disgraceful Conclusion

I wanted to politely express my disappointment with the Bell Let’s Talk program to Bell directly through their website. Guess what? Not a single “contact us” or “feedback” link on their entire website. Bell wants to do all of the talking, and they have no interest in listening, especially to the mentally ill.

The worst part about the Bell’s Let’s Talk program is that it diverts help away from the people who need it the most. Instead, Bell fools people to believe that all they have to do is send a few texts on Bell’s chosen January date. If they do this, everything will be A-OK for ALL mentally ill people. On the surface, Bell’s cause related marketing scam looks like it’s helping the people who need it. But really it’s only helping a few cherry picked people and races that Bell thinks will fill their greedy coffers for them.

Anyone who really wants to help the mentally ill should bypass Bell’s “bluewashing” scam. Instead they should contribute directly to the many legitimate charities for the mentally ill and the homeless.

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